Dear Miss Powell,
I notice that the so called 'First World' countries are making it harder and harder for Jamaicans to visit their country. I am doing well here in Jamaica, so I have no desire to move permanently from my beautiful country. I just want the freedom to travel and visit different countries when I find time for a vacation. I was planning to apply for Canadian visitor's visas for my wife and I, so I can take her to Niagara Falls for our 25th wedding anniversary. My main concern is that I heard they are now insisting that we make our applications personally to the Canadian Embassy and they want fingerprints. Is this so? Does that mean that we will have to pay more on top of the already exorbitant price for a simple visitor's visa? I really think this visa application is a money-making business for these countries. Does that mean I can't send my application through the travel agent anymore?
Congratulations on celebrating your 25th wedding anniversary. Niagara Falls is a perfect place to visit for the celebration.
The new requirement is part of the requirement by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to request 'biographic' information from persons wishing to enter Canada. This means that they confirm a person's identity not just by their name, date of birth and identity documents, but also by fingerprinting.
I can understand your concern about the change in rules. However, the mandatory changes do not come into effect for Jamaica until September 2, 2013. Based on the advisory issued by CIC, they do not anticipate that the new changes will increase the processing time.
I do not know when you plan to visit Canada, but you should submit your application for a temporary resident visa or visitor's visa, as soon as possible, to avoid delay and even the cost of this new change.
There are no details about how they plan to implement the system in Jamaica yet. However, I'm sure that, as time goes by, the Canadian embassy, or visa application centre in Jamaica will issue new directives, outlining the new application procedure. They should also be issuing directives about applications through travel agents.
Whatever system they implement will require you and your wife to attend personally, either to the embassy or their fingerprinting agent, to have your fingerprints and photographs taken.
There will be an additional fee for this process. The government of Canada has issued a statement that the fee will be consistent with what other countries such as the USA and UK charge. The proposed biometrics fee is $85 CAD per person, $170 CAD for a family.
Some persons may be exempt from this new rule such as, children, the elderly and other persons visiting Canada on official business.
I understand the frustration, however verifying a person's identity is very important to CIC, especially in the age of identity theft. They are simply ensuring that they are better able to protect the integrity of the immigration system and the safety and security of Canadians and those who visit Canada.
Best of luck and best wishes for 2013.
Deidre S. Powell is a lawyer, mediator and notary public who is a member of the Jamaican and Ontario, Canada bars, with office located in Ottawa, Ontario. Her areas of practice are in immigration, personal injury, real estate, family and administration of estates. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Subject line: Immigration Tel: 613.695.8777